Name as it appears on the ballot: Chase McGrath
Party affiliation: Unaffiliated
Campaign website: https://www.facebook.com/groups/364374418878117
Occupation & employer: Platform Strategy Lead at Infinia ML
Years lived in Cary: 15
1) In 300 words or less, please give us—and our readers—your elevator pitch: Why are you running? Why should voters entrust you with this position? What are your priorities, and what would you want to see the town council do differently or better over the course of your term?
As a long-time resident and homeowner, I am excited for the opportunity to serve Cary and contribute to improving our vibrant town for its citizens. I understand what matters to everyday people in our town and am focusing my campaign on issues that have real impact in our community. I grew up in Cary and benefited greatly from living in such a beautiful and safe place. After moving away and living in other communities across the United States, I learned to appreciate Cary even more. Once I moved back a couple of years ago, I observed that our Town is at an inflection point in its history: our rental and home price growth is pushing more and more people out of our Town each day and our population growth is outstripping our ability to provide the same level of service to all citizens in Cary. Addressing these issues, and others that will inevitably arise in the future, requires a new way of thinking and decision-making that is beyond what our current Council’s “business-as-usual” approach to government can expect to achieve. We must be more proactive and more willing to take risks to ensure that we are building a safe, sustainable Cary for all that will remain so for years to come. And we must also do this within the constraints of the Town’s operating budget without raising taxes and increasing already burdensome financial pressure on Cary’s residents. This requires a fresh perspective on Council representing District A and the people of Cary. I am that new set of eyes and ears ready to listen and ready to lead Cary into the future.
2) Given the direction of Cary’s town government, would you say things are on the right course? If not, for what specific changes will you advocate if elected?
We owe a lot to our current Council members for helping build the Cary that we all enjoy today, however, the conditions they relied on for their growth formula have changed significantly in the last few years. For decades, Cary’s annual growth was consistent and manageable, allowing us to plan ahead and respond more slowly to change. Multiple years of heavy growth have revealed that we need to invest more in studying the impact of this growth on our community. In revising our plans for the Town’s future, the need for new development must be balanced against the potential impact on traffic congestion and housing affordability, required infrastructure investments from the Town, and increasing standards for environmental impact mitigation.
3) What are three of the most pressing issues the town currently faces? How would you propose to address them? Please be specific.
Housing affordability, environmental impact and degradation, and sustainable growth and development are all of primary importance to the Town. I have enumerated answers in subsequent questions on how to directly address these issues in our community.
4) What’s the best or most important thing the town council has done in the past year? Alternatively, name a decision you believe the council got wrong or an issue you believe the town should have handled differently. Please explain your answer.
I think Council’s July 2021 decision to approve 19-REZ-17 is an example of where negotiation by the Town really paid off. Prior to its approval, this request for development was amended to include important provisions that are aligned with Cary’s overall goals of improving environmental sustainability and housing affordability, including the addition of LED parking lot lights, on-site recycling and composting, electric vehicle charging stations, allocation of workforce housing units, and installation of solar panels. While more conditions likely could have been included in furtherance of these goals, this request represents a step in the right direction and is representative of how Council and developers can collaborate to make rezoning requests better serve our Town and its citizens. In contrast, Council’s approval of the Meridian Downtown Development Project was not correct. In addition to approving the clearing of an urban forest to build a high-density development in an already crowded area of downtown, the Town contributed millions to offset developer costs for this project. Such incentives are no longer needed to attract real estate development to downtown Cary and are not a good use of taxpayer money.
5) What prior experience will make you an effective member of the town council and advocate of the issues listed above? Please note any endorsements you have received that you consider significant.
I have years of experience working in client-facing roles to deliver complex and challenging projects to solve business and technology problems. I also have a unique academic background with an undergraduate degree in business and a graduate education in analytics, both of which have taught me how to use the right data and information to make informed, objective decisions. More importantly, I know how to ask the right questions and engage with people on an empathetic level to ensure their concerns are addressed by the Town and future policy decisions.
6) Given the rate of growth in Cary, how will you ensure that growth is well managed and enhances the town rather than detracts from it? Where does density and height fit in in planning decisions, if it does? How do you intend to balance growth with sustainability?
Encouraging growth that addresses Cary’s affordability and sustainability challenges is our Town’s biggest hurdle to overcome in the next few years. In the past, Cary has typically shied away from pursuing higher-density projects (unless they are mixed-use developments) since they are more out of character with the surrounding town. However, density will be key to ensuring that Cary can remain an accessible and affordable option for all members of its workforce to live, work and play. With density typically comes greater height requirements, so we need to be careful to ensure that building height is not dramatically out of character with surrounding tree lines and developments. Sustainability in our new and infill development will also be key. New projects should set the standard in our region and state for energy efficiency, availability of EV charging stations, and proximity to reliable, convenient transit options. In order to achieve this, the Town must work collaboratively with developers to make that sustainability vision a reality for future development in Cary.
7) As with most places in the Triangle, Cary is grappling with issues related to affordable housing. How would you like to see the town approach affordability issues over the next few years? Should it promote apartment living, duplexes, and/or triplexes? Encourage density in single family housing? What do you believe the town is doing right? What could it do better?
Unprecedented growth in the Triangle real estate market has made affordability and housing security a primary concern for many current and prospective Cary residents. We must accelerate investments in expanding the town’s stock of high- and medium-density affordable housing options, establish a community land trust to achieve longer-term goals for affordable housing, and continue revising Cary’s Housing Plan to respond to evolving conditions in our local housing market. To accomplish this in the face of real estate market headwinds and dwindling land available for development in Cary, Council has to be very judicious about every development request that it votes on in the next few years. We need to know what the full impact of each proposal potentially is before making a decision. Questions like – Is the applicant planning to demolish existing housing to build this project? Is any of that housing part of the Town’s stock of affordable housing? Will the applicant be setting aside any units in the development for workforce housing? – will be critical to assessing that.
8) How should town leaders work with the large organizations who are relocating to, or expanding or investing in Cary? What obligations, if any, should these businesses/companies/facilities have to the town?
Cary is recognized as one of the top locations for employers and entrepreneurs to establish operations and grow their business. As the future of work continues to change, our town is competing for new jobs not just with other municipalities in our state, but with locations across the country. To remain competitive, we must ensure our employer incentives align with market expectations and our community continues to provide ample amenities and housing options for the employees that new jobs will bring. However, we must also recognize the impact that new jobs – especially high-paying ones – have on existing infrastructure and housing affordability in Cary. It’s reasonable to ask some employers to make investments in affordable housing initiatives and other community improvement projects to offset the impact of their operations in our region. We’ve seen enterprises do so in other communities where they are a large employer, and Cary is not immune to the challenges that a large and rapid influx of high-earning jobs can bring to a community.
9) In your view, how can Cary be safer and more accessible using different modes of transportation? What is your vision for public transit, pedestrian and bike safety?
My long-term vision for Cary is that we are a community of choice – where citizens have the freedom to choose from a variety of safe, reliable modes of transportation to meet their needs and commute around our town and region. This means that travel by car, our primary means of transport today, will be a smaller fraction of annual trips made in Cary sometime in the future. In addition to improving the availability and reliability of our regional network of bus routes, the Town’s continued support for commuter rail in the Triangle and collaboration with municipal, regional, and state partners to deliver it by 2030 is essential for our future. The Town should also undertake required studies to determine how cycling can fit into the commute pattern of a greener, more sustainable Cary and take steps to create protected bike lanes along key corridors to make cycling a safer and more viable option to commute around Cary. In addition to all of this, pedestrian safety should remain a primary concern. As Cary creates more walkable districts around town, but travel by car remains a popular means of transport, pedestrian safety must be watched closely to ensure Cary is still a safe community for all.
10) What are your goals for Cary’s downtown and what does the town need to do to achieve those goals?
Cary’s downtown is becoming a vibrant cultural center that allows people from across our community and region to connect and recreate. New businesses and residents are ushering in a new era for our downtown. With this change comes a variety of issues related to traffic congestion and gentrification, among others. I would like to see our plans for downtown and adjacent neighborhoods focus more on preserving and renewing older properties that have historic and cultural value for Cary, rather than demolishing them to make way for more condos and townhomes. To do this, the Town must expand available programs for residents to remain in their home or for seniors to age in place by providing assistance for needed repairs or property taxes. In addition, the Town should consider programs which incentivize the revitalization, rather than destruction, by private industry of historic homes in neighborhoods close to downtown.
11) Cary residents love their parks and greenways. How should the town work to preserve, improve, or expand them?
Greenways and parks saw record use during the pandemic years as a refuge for our citizens. Population growth and aging public infrastructure will require sustained investment from the Town to renew and expand these resources and maintain them for the future. In addition, the Town must focus on ensuring its network of trails and greenways connect not just with local parks, but also with regional greenways that other counties and municipalities have developed or will build in the coming years. This investment in parks and greenways must also be accomplished without taking on additional Town debt through municipal bond issuance.
12) If there is anything else you would like to address please do so here.